Books are always better than the movie. The same can be said about TV shows based on books. The Three’s Company book originally written in 1853 is a prime example of this. The same can be said about another show John Ritter was involved with, Clifford the Big Red Dog.
The Clifford books were very popular among kids during the 1990s. Evil network executives saw this as a chance to make more money so they turned it into a TV show having very little to do with the books. Basically in the opening credits they fill you in on everything that happened in the books before introducing us to new characters nobody really cares about. They’re so kind.
As you can figure out, the main character is Clifford, a gigantic red dog voiced by John Ritter. He was born a runt and because his owner loved him so much he grew really big. When I say really big I’m not exaggerating. Girls tell me I’m really big sometimes but they’re just being nice. When faced with a naked man holding a cattle prod, girls will compliment any part of your body. Clifford was so big (25 feet tall) they had to move from the city to Bridwell Island named after the book creator, Norman Bridwell.
Clifford’s owner is a little 8-year-old Polly Pocket lookalike named Emily Elizabeth Howard. For some reason I imagine Emily Elizabeth growing up very prudish and then rebelling with drugs and unprotected sex while in college. Kids, rebel as early as you can. The later you wait the harder you fall. Clifford isn’t going to always be there for Emily Elizabeth. He’s huge which means he’ll probably die young like Andre the Giant. Don’t be like Emily Elizabeth. Don’t be a late blooming whore.
Other main characters on the show are Clifford’s pals, a poodle named Cleo and a pitbull named T-Bone. Cleo’s catchphrase is “Have I ever steered you wrong?” which is comedic because she has steered them wrong. She can be a bit bossy, like all women (am I right guys?) but all in all she is loyal to her pals. T-Bone is much more timid and suffers from Chucky Finster syndrome. He looks tough but he really isn’t. He was voiced by Kel Mitchell which has finally answered the question we’ve all been asking, “Is Kel Mitchell still alive?” This show went off air in 2003 when John Ritter died so who knows?
(T’-Bone is the one trying to kiss Clifford and Cleo is the one sniffing his ass “getting to know him” better)
One of the main antagonists on the show is a classmate of Emily Elizabeth’s named Jetta. I guess of all the car names to give your kid Jetta isn’t the worst. She could have been Hummer. Jetta is a spoiled brat and always whines. Really she’s incredibly unlikeable and made me hate this show sometimes because they never really made her lose badly enough. She also has a dog named Machiavelli or “Mac” for short. Like Jetta, he’s full of himself and will probably be killed by someone who has had enough of his bullshit.
There are many other characters, both pets and human. Emily Elizabeth’s parents are really boring. There’s a Jamaican father and son who I guess let us know Bridwell Island is not full of xenophobes. There’s Sheriff Lewis who is the town cop and soccer coach. If you were a criminal on Bridwell Island wouldn’t you just wait and rob the bank during a big soccer match? Then there’s Mr. Kibble, a pet shop owner. I guess with a name like that he was destined to get into the field he chose. Although, if dogs ever learn how to spell they will probably get confused and eat him.
(In the book series Emily Elizabeth has Down Syndrome)
The show itself could be very boring at times. It’s has a very dead pan delivery and moves slowly. There’s nothing even remotely edgy which I believe is needed for a kid’s show to become a classic. Each episode had lessons about friendship and sharing which is nice but can get a little overdone. There must be a town coroner somewhere on the island. Why not give him a spot?
I do think the idea of a giant dog is a good one though. It’s original and any child who loves animals will get a kick out of how freakish Clifford is for being gigantic and red. I only wonder what they will do with Clifford’s body once he does die. They’ll probably have to toss him into the ocean which is pretty sad, especially since he’ll probably just float back to shore a week later and a little more decayed. I forget if he got to the island by boat or by getting carried by helicopter. Either way, sticking a giant dog on an island is a little mean. Let the big guy have the world to wander about in.